I do not know Osita Chidoka personally. So this is not an attack on Osita Chidoka the person. On the contrary, it is an attack on Osita Chidoka the public administrator, who has recently been nominated for confirmation as a Minister by President Goodluck Jonathan. People say he will fill the aviation slot vacated by Princess Stella Oduah and this scares the hell out of me. Why? Well, in his time as FRSC boss, he presided over some dodgy reforms in our road transport sector. I speak of his vehicle registration and driver’s licensing efforts.
1. Vehicle Registration – I remember in the late 80s, when my dad changed the registration number of his Renault 9 GTL from OY 727 X to BF 727 BDJ. Dr. Olu Agunloye (him I know personally) had been appointed Corps Marshal and this move was ostensibly to fix the government’s database and computerise all the records. Over the past 2 years or so, Osita Chidoka, has been telling us that the FRSC has been absolute rubbish at keeping records, so many of the Agunloye-time plates were not fully captured on issue. The FRSC lost many records in transit between the various licensing centres and the headquarters in Abuja. The worst part was that Nigerians had to pay to fix this wholly government-sided mess. Chidoka’s people then swapped the positioning of the characters on the license plate (e.g. to BDJ 727 BF) and slapped a messy green watermark in the shape of the Nigerian map behind them. Of course, the process could only be completed on time through touts. Several courts have ruled the process not to be properly backed by law but this being Nigeria, it’s probably safer to be our usual docile selves and just get the new plates to prevent harassment on the highways.
2. Driver’s Licenses – Again, Chidoka decided to decree a uniform expiry date on driver’s licenses, regardless of actual expiration and demand that we all get new ones. Cue the frantic rush to procure the interim papers that say you went to a state-approved driving school and passed a test (LOL, ROTFL), and thereafter be given an appointment to report for data capture. This FRSC data capture is the loooooooooooooooongest process in the world. You are assigned a date several months in the future only for that date arrive and the venue is a typical disorderly mess. Why there are so few centres, why the FRSC refuses to harness 2014 technology, why getting your picture and fingerprints recorded takes longer than NASA plans a rocket launch is absolutely beyond me.
I reckon Chidoka will have similar “reforms” in mind for the aviation sector. All aircraft will need recertification from a single authorised testing centre on the Bebi strip ( all 100 metres of it). So a tout will take your original papers to Bebi where there’ll be a couple of liaison officers from the government agency all in on the massive racket. They will frequently go on 3-day lunch breaks, you know, just because. I am not saying Chidoka is racketeer. However the implementation of his reforms to date has empowered racketeers.
Reform is a great thing. In fact, the good book encourages us to daily renew our minds. Reform is scriptural. Amen! But a reform that preserves the old, stinking order is no renewal. A reform that merely shrouds the status quo in a cloak of pseudo-progressiveness is utterly condemnable.
I have read somewhere that Chidoka has a masters degree in some relevant transportation subject from George Mason, so perhaps his attempts to reform are killed by the septic environment of the Nigerian civil service. Perhaps that will be his challenge when he becomes a Minister – to Nigeria-proof his reforms. Otherwise, do not be surprised if in 6 months from now, you will barred from flying locally without the snazzy new Biometric Utility Long Life Safety Harnessing Identity Ticket. You see my acronym?